So you’re set to change the world with your tasty, nutritious, ethical plant-based product. Amazing we’re behind you all the way. However, with the explosion of the plant-based revolution, there is some serious competition for the most talented people out there. We are seeing strong competition for Plant-based Food Scientists, Food Technologists, Engineers, and Managers to name but a few.
As you enter a high growth phase of your companies journey it can be one of the most interesting and challenging phases. How you perform and scale during this stage determines your company’s future. And because people and teams lie at the centre of such growth, your hiring strategy becomes uber-critical during this expansion stage.
Accuracy in estimating your hiring needs, establishing an optimised hiring process, and taking steps to attract the best candidates are some of the things you need to do to make sure that your hiring strategy actually brings you the very best talent. So, how to optimise your growth hiring strategy?
Who you hire defines everything
1. Identify Your Hiring Challenges
So rapid growth is fantastic however rushing through the hiring process isn’t the solution. Hiring needs careful consideration, despite the urgency. And unless your founding team has serial entrepreneurs with experience building and growing teams for high-growth companies, you might not have the recruiting expertise such situations demand. Also, because plant-based companies generally grow quicker than most, it can be hard to invest in building or defining company culture. Furthermore, growing companies must compete for talent with much better-known organisations, so you must be extra smart with getting good candidates in.
All this means that as a food disrupter growing at a rapid pace you (generally) don’t have a head start when it comes to recruiting. And what you need is a customised growth hiring strategy. So start with this acknowledgment that there’s a lot to do on the hiring front and that it’s critical to maintain the growth rate.
2. Assess Your Hiring Needs
Haven’t all of us seen fast-growing companies that hired too many employees too soon?
Sadly it’s very common for expanding companies to overestimate their hiring needs and recruit based on that. This could be called “very optimistic” or “over-enthusiastic” hiring that doesn’t always work out. And then what follows are too many layoffs.
A steadily growing company, Buffer, experienced exactly this. Early on, they had to let go of 10 of their employees (that made about 11% of their company size back then!). Buffer’s founder, Joel Gascoigne explained that their hiring pace outpaced their growth pace:
“…we grew the team too big, too fast. We thought we were being mindful about balancing the pace of our hiring with our revenue growth. We weren’t.” — Joel Gascoigne from Buffer
Such lapse in making hiring estimates has two horrible consequences:
Your employer branding is hurt. Since you’re a growing business, you’ll certainly have to continue recruiting people sooner or later. And if you’ve got a history of layoffs, a lot of quality candidates would simply ignore applying to your jobs as such layoffs make you look like an irresponsible employer.
Such layoffs could become speed breakers in your growth journey. Such experiences can be very demoralising for your employees and can crush their morale thereby causing growth slumps. Besides, if you can’t handle such a situation as transparently and sensibly as Buffer, you’d need a long, long time to recover from it.
So plan your growth hiring strategy responsibly by carefully evaluating your hiring needs. Also, do factor in your employee turnover rate when making your hiring need estimations.
So, if you estimate that you’ll need to be 1,000-employee strong this year to keep up with the high-growth phase, and assuming that you’re currently at 700 employees, you’ll need another 300 to get to the 1,000-employee mark. BUT that would be true only if none of your current employees leave you the whole year.
Now because the average employee turnover rate hovers around 10%, you can expect to lose about 70 of your employees. So that means, you’ll have to plan on hiring 370 (and not 300) employees to maintain your growth. You get the idea, right?
3. Map Out a Recruiting Timeline
Once you get a reasonable idea of the positions you actually need to hire for, prioritise your hiring. For example, if you plan on expanding your offerings, you will need to plan the product and operations team before you get to the marketing hiring needs.
Likewise, if you’re looking to optimise your revenue channels, you might want to prioritise hiring marketing people over operations people. More hiring on the latter could be pushed to the later quarters of the year. Planning a simple quarter-wise hiring plan could help you prioritise much better.
4. Determine Your Hiring True Costs
Once you know the positions you’ll need to be hiring for, it’s time to calculate what cost filling each position would incur.
This is also called the average cost per hire. The average cost per hire metric tells you how much you spend on average on making a hire. The average cost to hire metric takes into account your several hiring or recruitment expenses such as the cost of your recruitment tools (for example, an applicant tracking system, pre-employment assessment platforms, interviewing tools, etc.), the expenses for posting your listings on the different job boards, or fees for working with recruitment consultancies.
It also includes the salaries of your full-time or part-time or contract recruiters and hiring managers. It can take longer than you think to hire. Reportedly, about 70% of companies take one to four months to make a hire. Obviously, as a growing business, you can’t have a position vacant for this long.
5. Design Your Hiring Process
Adam Robinson — author of the book The Best Team Wins and a top keynote speaker on all things recruiting and management says that 90% of companies lack a structured hiring process.
Among all the other things that result from the lack of a structured or documented hiring process, the bad hires it brings to your company can hurt you the most. Bad hires don’t just cause massive financial losses (According to Oxford Economics and Unum, the average cost of taking on an employee (on a salary of £25k) is £30,165) but they can also jeopardise your company’s growth rate.
A longer time to hire, a high turnover rate, and a higher cost per hire are other issues that almost always result from ad hoc hiring methods.
Don’t worry about getting everything right in your hiring process in the first go — you can optimise with each hire you make.
6. Improve the Diversity of Your Candidate Sources
For a growing company like yours, you need hyper-competitive people who don’t just keep up with the pace of growth but also have the drive to take it forward. This means, tapping into pools of talented candidates is super-important. Here are a few ways to build or hack into all these talent bases:
- Creating an employee referral program. Employees are a great source of quality candidates. So start seeking referrals from your employees.
- Building a talent pool of your own. Depending on the hiring resources you’ve got at hand and based on your annual hiring priorities, you could start connecting with the skilled people on LinkedIn and other talent communities.
In addition to these, build a strong employer branding. A strong employer branding is the single most effective “inbound” sourcing tactic that can make your hyper-growth hiring strategy 10x more effective.
7. Learn from Other Companies
The hiring needs and challenges of a company that’s experiencing hyper-growth vary greatly from an enterprise or from a start-up. And simply put: there’s no one general hiring process that works for all.
This means that as a company in this specific growth phase, you can learn a lot from companies that are just where you are — in their expanding phases. So, look at the different high-growth companies from your niche or industry and evaluate all that they’re doing hiring-wise. To start with: Look at their careers page. Notice how it’s structured, its use of copy and visuals, its overall feel, etc.
Read their job ads. Do you notice anything that stands out in their job ads? What benefits do they offer?
Find out if they post on a few select job boards. If they do, these job boards might get quality candidates for you too.
And so on. The idea is to learn all that you can about how they’re approaching hiring at this point in their growth story.
Don’t forget that the employee journey just starts with your hiring strategy. Think about what happens once a candidate is hired, i.e., the employee onboarding experience. This experience, too, needs to be optimized so that the new team members don’t just connect with the team quickly but also learn all they need to support your growth goals. And that all the effort and resources you spent on hiring them weren’t spent in vain.
In addition to these tips, you must consistently invest some time and effort into building your company culture and employer branding.
These elements will go a long way in attracting the right candidates to your company, and they’re pretty easy to miss if growth operations take all your time.